Sunday, September 11, 2016

September 11, 2001 -- 15 Years On

 --A Little Firework to 911
Marian Kamensky (Slovakia)

Once there was a way to get back homeward,
Once there was a way to get back home
--Golden Slumbers, The Beatles

All the fakeness just rolls right off them,
maybe because the nonstop sales job of American life
has instilled in them exceptionally high thresholds
for sham, puff, spin, bullshit, and outright lies,
in other words for advertising in all its forms
--Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk (2016)


Mankind survived the last ice age.
We're certainly capable of surviving this one.
All depends on whether or not we're able
to learn from our mistakes
--The Day After Tomorrow (2004)


This is a call for a momentary cessation in hostilities, whatever your stripe.

It is a reminder of a time, not so long ago, when we were able to cohere.

I live near the top of a little hill. It's not much, but it's what suffices for such here in our state capital. As such, I am privileged to watch the cast of regulars who summit the hill daily.

There are the high school ROTC runners and their barking drill instructors, and the local marathoners. There is the elderly gent with the broken straw hat who travels the route daily atop his John Deere tractor mower.

But yesterday, it was an old woman who stopped my attention as I saw her make her way along her familiar daily route.

She is always to herself, speaksing to no one, inscrutable, with an air of self-contained pleasure about her. She often stops and bends to pull weeds to tidy a neighbor's planter, to gather twigs or to set aright a fallen recyclables bin. She is usually silent.

My friend Rhett, lifetime resident and self-proclaimed "dirt-road country boy", diagnoses her unwavering sashay as being the result of some good lovin' when her husband was alive.

This week, she reminded me of the events of 9-11, and this particular woman on that particular day.

That infamous day began when I walked into the office to be confronted by the stricken look of a co-worker, who directed me to go to the staff room and watch the events on the television, what was to become the unceasing loop to which we would be served for weeks to come, the burning towers of NYC's World Trade Center.

In my next class that morning, I shared my supposition that this was an Islamic terrorist act. Most students did not yet know what Islam or terrorism was, a blissful ignorance from which they have since awoken.

As I drove through downtown on my way home that day, I was struck by the silence. No planes, but more than that, the road noise was brought to a hush. It was as though no one dared to crack the uncustomary silence.  There were no horns, and no music blared out of windows.

In retrospect, it seems that most windows were closed, even on that pleasant Indian summer day. Perhaps they were listening to the radio. Most faces stared obediently -- stunned? -- straight ahead.

In stores, there was a palpable politesse. What had just happened to us, by whom, and why? But the questions were not asked aloud.

When I arrived home, the lady on the hill soon passed my window singing a mournful spiritual. She knew what time it was, figuratively -- a knowing that we seem to have lost today.

Her dolorous dirge was a snapshot in time for me, and when I saw her yesterday, in context of the ceaseless strife and chatter during this election season, I thought about her Cassandra-like break in her silence.

15 years later, proportionately few Americans have served in the so-called Wars on Terror. Many of those who have done so have returned with poor or ambivalent views of their actions in the Middle East theatre.

Taking a parachute view of our country, we are still a nation of law, we still have a Supreme Court (though we cannot seem to fill the vacant seat.) We remain a capitalistic democracy, and many people continue to so very well. But some things seemingly remote from the events of 9-11-01 have changed.

We are two months away from a Presidential election, and our papers of note shaves till failed to adequately cover the candidate's positions, in lieu of squeezing the humor value, tabloid-style, out of personality gaffes. Everyone wants to be on someone's feed, and one must be absurd or outrageous to get "Liked" in that way.

Other changes are recently released studies which show middle-aged white males are the one demographic no longer making gains in longevity; in fact, they are losing time. Cheaper adulterated drugs like heroin are resulting in more deaths among users, especially in that demographic.

So much has changed for the worse in the 15 years the start of the 21st century, and much of it wrought through our our own malfeasance.

Most people are now preternaturally connected to their smartphones and other devices, an era-defining development. It is difficult to imagine a time when life was lived in real color, and not pixels.
When we let the genie out of the Middle East bottle, we ensured that we would have a perpetual problem to hold our interest for the remainder of our lifetimes, at least.

But by putting these people -- who had mostly been quietly living their lives in a pre--modern fashion -- on the world's stage in such a spectacular fashion, the U.S. has unfairly ensured the rest of the world face the fallout from our discretionary wars. As a result, it is they who live in closer proximity to the region of unrest who are suffering the brunt of the problems.

My philosopher-cabdriver friend called that afternoon 15 years ago to say, "Everything has now changed."

I thought that was a bit of an overreaction at the time.

[Note: so enamored are we with the piffle which has characterized the last year of public national life that when I searched on my political cartoon website, I found predominately European cartoonists who had remembered today's significance.

Most U.S. cartoons still featured GOP candidate Trump's cotton candy coiffure in some disdainful manner. Life in 2016, U.S.A. Go, team

1 comment:

  1. As I wrote five years ago..."So one would think that this tenth anniversary of the moment we started the geopolitical equivalent of slamming eleven vodka and Red Bull shooters, stripping down to our skivvies, and leaping into the beer tub down at the local lesbian softball victory party swinging a length of tire chain and shouting "I can whip any bitch in the park!" we'd be looking around sheepishly at all the angry bull daggers, picking our saggy wet Jockeys out of the crack of our stinging ass and wondering what the fuck we had been thinking.

    (Stops. Sighs. Shakes his head.)

    Instead of indulging in an orgy of self-pity, maudlin sentimentality, and self-righteous victimhood.

    But we won't."

    We must never forget, Lisa, that what "changed" was not some sort of fantastic coincidence or some sort of bizarre happenchance. What changed was that a cabal of greedy, venal, evil men chose to use the horror and fear and anger of that day to manipulate the American people for their own greedy, venal, evil purposes. And for that crime - the crime of waging aggressive war, the crime for which we hung men in Japan and Germany after WW2 - they have never missed so much as a meal or a half a buck.

    I think that, if there is any sort of justice in the future that we, we petty men and women, who lived through those days will creep past the memorial of the towers and find ourselves dishonorable graves. We betrayed our republic for a mess of fucking pottage. The Bush cabal were straight-out sonsofbitches doing what sonsofbitches do. It was US, We, the People, who crowned them and let them pass through the gates of the city still boasting of their triumphs as the imperial legions they dispatched still leave their bones to whiten in the desert.

    We should be ashamed of ourselves.